Anyone out there know how to fry chicken?
I proved last night that I can make a real disaster of the process. Which stinks, because I love homemade fried chicken. And I’ve only actually attempted it a few times in my life, last night’s foray providing by far the worst results.
Here’s what I did:
- Decided to veer from the Paula Deen recipe I used last time (perhaps a subconscious departure from anything having to do with her, since anytime I hear or see her name my head is filled with a visual of the recently-acquired, deer-in-headlights, cooped-up-on-smack stare that beckons from her magazine covers and FoodTV recreations). Instead, printed out an Alton Brown recipe (reinforcing my husband’s belief that I would pack up and leave our family if Mr. Good Eats showed up at our door with a couple of plane tickets to Jamaica).
- Marinated my chicken parts for 24 hours in buttermilk.
- Made Tim stop on his way home from a long and exhausting day of meetings north of Atlanta to pick up a new candy/deep-fry thermometer, since the one I pulled out of my utensil drawer was broken.
- Used almost an entire can of crisco.
- In my heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel, deep-edged fry pan, kept the oil as close to 325º as possible (without going over by more than 5º).
- Followed Alton’s instructions to a tee, with the exception of using only half the recommended seasoning (2 Tbsp of kosher salt for 4 pounds of chicken seemed like a lot). I drained the buttermilk-soaked chicken, sprinkled on the seasoning, dredged the pieces in flour, and fried away.
What happened next was not, based on my frustrated after-the-fact google searches last night, that unusual. The coated skin of my chicken was too dark, too quick. It was suggested that 10-12 minutes per side would adequately provide the “golden-brown” crust so desired, but my chicken was closer to a shade of “burnt umber” in just 7 minutes. So I flipped it, and the other side browned just as quickly. Too brown, I removed the pieces from the oil to drain. A quick check of the internal temperature said that the legs were right at 180º, the required safe temp. I left the first batch on the racks to drain, and started on the second. This time, I didn’t let them get as dark, and then made my true fatal mistake: didn’t take the internal temperature of the pieces.
As Tim and I scarfed down the dark-brown whole chicken leg quarters, we both got concerned as we neared the bone. Things just didn’t look right. We tossed those pieces, and cut into the dark-brown legs and thighs; they were fine. But when Tim reached for one of the pieces from the second batch, he cut into raw chicken. It was enough to make my appetite disappear completely, and as I looked at my greasy kitchen, dusted with flour and littered with half-eaten chicken parts, my cooking soul was shattered and deflated. I swore off frying chicken, for the rest of my life, and set to microwaving the salvageable pieces (I intended to use half the batch in a recipe the following night).
But you know, I’m not going to be able to let it go. I will be haunted by visions of perfectly-fried, tender and moist chicken — perhaps even dream about it. I will perform searches of foodie websites and thumb through old cookbooks, looking for the words of wisdom that will solidify the optimal modus operandi for poultry-frying. I might even stalk Alton himself, not with a plan of escaping to Jamaica, but so he will tell me what the hell I did wrong. I WILL NOT REST UNTIL THE SKIN IS GOLDEN AND THE MEAT ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DEGREES.
Well, maybe. A nap sounds really good right now.